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Tom Coleman was the lead person in the case called People v Lino and People v Brashier in which, for the first time, The Michigan Supreme Court actually tried to provide a DEFINITION of the felony we call “gross indecency.”  Up until that time (I think it was 1994) if a jury asked the judge to tell them what that charge meant – he would simply say “use your common sense.” In other words, despite the constitutional requirement of NOTICE of what you are charged with – gay men (and some women) charged with “gross indecency” faced a situation in which any jury was completely free to send them to prison for YEARS for ANYTHING that the jury didn’t LIKE…based upon the transparently defective idea that the “common sense” of the jury DEFINED the crime. 

In LINO/BRASHIER, for the first time, the court said that gross indecency was: oral sex in public (not in private), sex for pay, sex involving minors in any way or sex involving force.  Luciano Lino was a transgender “street” prostitute in Lansing.  He was accused of performing oral sex in a pick-up truck in an enclosed parking lot.  Brashier (I believe he was from Hazel Park) had another guy recruit boys under age 16 whom he would pay to come to a motel on urinate on him while he masturbated in a bathtub.  He never touched the boys and they never touched him but he paid them to engage in an arguably  ‘sexual’ activity.

This case CHANGED THE DEFINITION of gross indecency for the ENTIRE STATE OF MICHIGAN. 

Tom Coleman, The Spectrum Institute and Triangle Foundation were all significant factors in this but Tom was, without question, the single most important force.  It was he who contacted Triangle and myself to tell us about the case and to recruit us to work on the case.  Tom Coleman has had a significant historic impact on Michigan criminal laws that impact LGBT tax payers.

Tom’s book also talks about the Jackson Housing cases (McCready v Hoffius or what we sometimes call the “Hoffius cases”).  In those cases a right-wing religious commercial landlord refused to rent to people he thought were “living in sin” (whether unmarried single people or gay people).

Again, Tom contacted us about the case, recruited me and Triangle to litigate the appeal, and he did most of the work.  Tom Coleman has had a major impact on HOUSING and CIVIL RIGHTS matters that impact LGBT people in Michigan.

The Michigan Supreme Court held that “marital status” protection included protecting single people.  An excellent opinion was written by (now) Chief Justice Marilyn Kelly.  This was an obvious result since I always thought marital status meant you were: single, married, divorced or widowed (with possible variations such as “dating” “going steady” “engaged” “separated”).

Therefore, the law said your landlord couldn’t discriminate against you because you were single, married or divorced.  You don’t even have to GET to the issue of your landlord deciding what is a “sin” and then imposing his personal definition of sin on people who want to rent in remote commercial buildings he happens to own.  Hoffius was not renting rooms in his own home.  He owned apartment buildings an advertised for renters in the newspaper.  The court decided that landlords had the constitutional freedom to believe whatever they choose to believe – but that, in the market place, religious landlords had to follow the same laws as all other landlords.

Again, this was a historically significant state-wide decision.  It is still important TODAY because when Justice Conrad Mallet quit the court, the NEW MAJORITY (I call them “the Federalist Four” and others called them ”The Gang of Four” – 4 activist extremists appointed by John Engler) VACATED the decision.  There remains on-going controversy TODAY about their unethical procedure (Justice Corrigan failed to disqualify herself and reviewed an opinion SHE had written when on the Court of Appeals – contrary to accepted legal ethics) AND the result.  They gave religious landlords “special rights” to impose their view of sin on tenants.  They call themselves “strict constructionist” but they twisted the phrase “marital status” so it included only married couples.  If the legislature had intended only to protect married couples, it could have SAID so.  

EVERY person has a “marital status” just as they have a “race” and an “age”.  They are either single, married, divorced or widowed.  This controversy is CURRENT because Justice Robert Young (a member of the Gang of Four) is running for re-election in 2010.  He is an extremist, pro-insurance company (he used to be General Counsel for one of the largest insurance companies in the state) Anti-gay and anti-civil rights judge.



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